Monday, September 26, 2011

Introducing my new sewing room!

This is a post that I've been waiting to do for a while! Like many other sewing obsessed people out there, I've always wanted to have a space of my own for sewing and crafting projects. In the past I've had my sewing machine set up on the kitchen table, and then graduated to a little desk in the corner of the bedroom, but the mess has always managed to spill out and take up more of the house than was really desirable. Now I finally have a room of my own, custom designed for sewing. I also have enough storage space that I hope I'll have at least a fighting chance of staying organized, and a door to close if I don't!

Our apartment in Montreal is a three bedroom (or a 5 1/2, in Montreal speak), which sounds quite large (and it is a lot bigger than other places we've lived in, to be fair), but the bedrooms are pretty tiny. The room that we use as our bedroom is barely large enough to hold our double bed, let alone a dresser and clothes. After mulling over what to do about the bedroom setup, it dawned on me that there's no law saying that I have to get dressed in the bedroom -- in fact, it makes quite a lot of sense to keep my clothes along with all my sewing stuff. So, the room is actually a sewing room/dressing room, and now my dresser is right across the hallway from the laundry and in the same room as the ironing board.

I repainted our old dresser to match my new color scheme, and made two sets of curtains. Since the windows are just above street level, I wanted one set of curtains that would stay permanently closed for privacy, and then some sheers for decoration. I finally managed to make peace with my rolled hem foot while making these curtains. They were so long that there was no way I wanted to go over each seam twice to do the rolled hem manually, so I just sucked it up and messed around with the foot for a while. I watched a lot of internet videos to try to help me along, but really, I think the rolled hem foot is all about tacit knowledge. And after sewing 30 or so feet of curtain edges, I'm finally getting a feel for how to hold the fabric so it feeds through nicely.

On the dressing side of the room, my SO installed some wall mounted clothes bars for shirts and skirts. I like the idea of having some clothes out in the open -- I can hang things out there that have a tendency to get lost in the back of my closet to encourage myself to wear them, and it's also nice to have some things that I've made on display in the room. I hung a few pegs on the wall for works-in-progress or hanging up pajamas or so, but in reality I tend to dump them on the dressing chair. The chair was a great find that I bought off my neighbors who have a scrap metal collecting business. They were about to dismantle a set of these excellent chairs before I ran outside and saved them.

On the sewing side of the room, I bought some of these Ikea shelves to use a cutting table/storage area. My most excellent sister bought two of these shelves for her sewing room, and when I saw them at her place I couldn't believe I'd never thought of turning them on their sides and using them as a table. The two shelves together comfortably fit my cutting mat and ironing board, and I hung some baskets on the wall so I can have my rotary cutters and chalk markers nearby.

I took allllll of my fabric out of storage and folded it up neatly so that it could be stored in the Ikea shelves. The SO has a really great picture of me surrounded by fabric mid-organizing, looking totally overwhelmed. With the notable exception of some fabric shopping done while on vacation in Paris, I'm still refraining from buying new fabric until I use up at least half of my stash. I'm hoping that keeping it out in the open will motivate me to sew! I also made some storage bins for scraps and interfacing/random notions. The bins turned out really well, but they were truly more complicated than they needed to be (what with the binding around the edges and all), and I was really annoyed with myself for spending so much time making storage bins by the time I was halfway done. One little idea that I'm really pleased with was painting the front of the drawers of an organizer with chalkboard paint. Now they can be relabeled easily if I ever decide to store something else in there.

And finally, I really lucked out with finding this little desk for my sewing machine at a garage sale in my neighborhood. It's a really tiny desk -- my chair just barely fits under it, and that's after we added little legs to the bottom to raise the height a bit. The person I bought it from said that she thought it was from the 50s or 60s, and probably held a piece of infrequently used office equipment.

So there you have it -- my new sewing room. Now that I'm finished painting and organizing, perhaps I'll actually be able to get some sewing done!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's a canning frenzy over here

The jetlag from our recent trip to Europe had us up early in the morning for our first few days back, and what better to do with that extra morning energy than go to the market? Early September seems to be tomato season around here, and there were giant bins of tomatoes at the market. We picked up a bushel of roma tomoates (52 pounds!) for 16 bucks and felt quite pleased about it, but as the SO was walking them home on his bike a guy stopped him to say you could get a bushel of tomatoes for ten dollars elsewhere. So cheap! I don't feel sad about paying 16 bucks for these lovely tomatoes at all, especially considering how much we pay for sad and lifeless tomatoes here in Canada in the winter.

Tomato based things are pretty labor intensive to can. We did two batches of tomato sauce over two days, and it takes a good afternoon for the sauce to slowly simmer and reduce enough until it's thick enough to can. We also made ketchup (a looooong time to reduce for that), and salsa, which didn't have to cook very long but involved a lot of prep work (scalding the tomatoes to remove the skins, and then de-seeding them).

But, those cans of salsa look pretty awesome, don't they?

We also ended up with a lot of cucumbers this week from a friend's CSA share. The SO, who is extremely picky about both mustard and pickles, found a recipe online for mustard pickles that appealed to him, and he tried these out. Unfortunately, he used a bit more (actually, a lot more!) horseradish than the recipe called for, so these may end up being pickles of death. We opted to keep them in the fridge rather than processing them, and every time I open the fridge now I get a whiff of horseradish.

After a long weekend of canning, my favorite part is labeling the lids and arranging all the nice jars of stuff in the cupboards. I'm a bit of a hoarder and find it very comforting to have a stockpile of stuff around, so the sight of this cupboard full of sauces and jams and pickles makes me very happy. I'm not sure that it's quite enough to last us through the long Montreal winter, but it's a good start.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Oh, those Germans

The SO and I just returned from our vacation to Europe, and we're currently unpacking our overstuffed suitcases. Seriously, we brought back a lot of stuff (we were within a kilogram or so of our weight limit for the flight), and a lot of that was stuff from the grocery store -- tomato paste in a tube (great invention!), cans of vegan mushroom pate, ridiculously cheap and tasty fizzy vitamin tablets, German christmas cookies, etc. My SO understandably misses a lot of food items that you can't get in North America, and even though I've never lived in Germany there are already some things that I'm pretty addicted to as well.

While I love browsing through German grocery store for new things to try, I also like going for the amusement factor. There's some wacky stuff in there. Exhibit one: jars of pickled white asparagus. I don't know quite why I find this so weird, but I really do. Every time I see this stuff, it still strikes me as Star Trek alien food and I wonder why it is that someone would actually want to buy/eat this. Pickled albino alien tentacles!

Another thing that I find amusing about German grocery stores is that they have a lot of beverages that you wouldn't find in North America, and a lot of drinks in general. We went to one "drink store," which was an entire store for juices, water and beer. Some of them are familiar -- I find tomato juice quite tasty, and I'd be willing to try vegetable juice and beet juice, but sauerkraut juice? Who buys that?

Here's the water section of the drink store. Yep, that whole big warehouse space is entirely devoted to different kinds of water! There are several dozen different brands of water here, from different springs and with different degrees of fizziness.

I'm a big fan of fizzy water, but even I can't imagine a need for this many different kinds of fizzy water. The SO suggested that we have a water tasting, and we picked five different brands to try. The green bottle is a "medicinal" water that is supposed to help with digestion and comes with instructions on recommended usage. They do all taste different, but not in any strongly identifiable way. I thought that I'd be able to pick out the ones with high sulfur contents, for example, but they don't really taste like sulfur.

Finally, it's funny but a little horrifying to see what other countries think of your own food culture. It happened to be "American week" at one of the grocery stores that we were at, and the special foods section was stocked with products like these:

I'm guessing the "hamburger sauce" is some sort of blend of ketchup and mayo? Every single "American Way" product was pretty terrifying, and I'm sure that at least some Germans are just as weirded out by those marshmallows as I am at pickled asparagus.